Soviet UFOlogy Samizdat

Nabliudeniia NLO V SSSR [UFO sightings in the USSR], vol 1. Signed samizdat edition.

[Moscow]: self-published, 1980 (a xerox copy from the original 1968 typescript). Octavo (25.6 × 18.3 cm). Original decoratively lettered paper-covered boards, cloth spine; 204, [1] pp. Signed and inscribed by the author. Light overall wear; about very good.

Intended as an appeal for the legitimization and systematic study of NLO (Neopoznannyi letaiushchii ob’ekt, or UFO) by the Soviet state, this text was assembled form nearly 200 witness reports catalogued in the 1960s by one of the chief Soviet ufologists, Feliks Zigel’ (1920–1988). A trained mathematician, astronomer, and professor at the Moscow Aviation Institute, Zigel’ was the author of the first Soviet textbook on the physics of space travel, as well as hundreds of scientific articles and dozens of popular science texts for adults and children. Zigel’ reportedly began gathering information on UFO sightings as early as 1955. On November 10th, 1967 Zigel’ made a historic appearance on Soviet national TV, inviting viewers to submit reports of UFO sightings for the study by the special group of scientists at the Central House of Aviation in Moscow, and for eventual inclusion in the publication “Naselennyi kosmos” (Inhabited space). Calls for reports were also published in 1967–1968 in a variety of officially sanctioned Soviet youth and popular science journals such as “Smena” (The Shift), “Tekhnika Molodezhi” (Youth and technology), “Baikal” and “Vokrug Sveta” (Around the world). The appeals resulted in hundreds of submissions, from all across the Soviet Union, from a team of physicists in Novosibirsk, to an engineer in Moscow, a group of geophysicists and geologists from Leningrad, a director of hydroelectrical institute in Kherson (today located in southern Ukraine), and even a crew of over 80 test pilots in Vorkuta, a town just north of the arctic circle.

The introduction to the text calls for humility in the sciences, reminding the reader that much of what we know about the physical world today was thought to have been unbelievable or impossible just decades ago. The volume is divided into six thematic sections: “Sickle-shaped UFO”; “Discs, cigars, orbs”; “Anomalous UFO”; “Cloud-formations connected to UFO”; “Radio-location of UFO”; “UFO observation from the air”. The concluding section titled “Brief commentary” includes Zigel’s’ attempts at calculating UFO trajectories as described by observers. A history of Soviet study of UFO is included in the appendix, as well as a letter petitioning the state to create an organization for the scientific study of UFO. The manuscript was completed in 1968 but was never published due to a sudden ban by the Soviet state. Historian Sabrina Ramet writes: “Moscow scientific journals organized a meeting at the Central Journalism House on 5 February 1968, providing an occasion for a frank discussion of UFOs. But shortly after the meeting, the UFO research division was closed down, and on 29 February 1968, Pravda published a blistering attack on ufology. From then until 1989, UFO sightings could be mentioned in the Soviet media only to debunk them. Soviet citizens were forbidden to study UFOs or to publish concerning the subject. The result was the spawning of the UFO underground” (See “UFOs over Russia and Eastern Europe” in The American impact on European Popular Culture since 1945, pp. 201-203). A copy of this manuscript reportedly began to circulate in samizdat sometime in the early 1970s. Although Zigel’ subsequently reported to a number of official Soviet commissions on the state of his previous work, he was never again allowed to conduct open official investigations. He continued to actively advocate for the study of UFOs as a legitimate branch of Soviet science throughout his life. This copy, signed and dedicated to an unknown addressee, seems to be a 1980 xerox copy of the original 1968 typescript.

Book ID: 51397